I was living without a culture, enveloped in a psuedo-quasi happy existence.
I lived in constant fear: “What would I do if the other kids found out; would I be teased, shunned, or classified as a terrorist?” The only people I ever disclosed my roots to were my closest friends, and even they couldn’t digest what I told them. I couldn’t be honest with anyone. I couldn’t even be honest with myself. I decided to never bring up my culture again, and so, I lived a lie. Externally, this was an easy task because I never really looked or played the part. Internally, I faced the overwhelming struggle of feeling empty. Four years later, I’ve rediscovered myself – I am a proud Afghani.
Stories from my friends about their traditions and celebrations spawned the initial interest to have culture in my life. But could I overcome my fear of being ostracized? Two forces in my conscience began to intertwine: on one side, there was the importance I gave to what others thought of me, on the other side, the importance I gave to what I thought of myself. I slowly realized I had to overcome my fear of others.
The first step to recovering my culture was joining my school’s Multicultural Club. There, with the help of two great teachers, I embarked on a journey to find my roots. Multicultural Club was the beginning of everything — the beginning of eating Palao, watching the intricate hand movements of Afghani dances, and learning how to speak the language of my grandparents.
My obstacle was hiding from my culture because of what others would think of me. Even to this day, I have friends who choose to ignore where I come from or who abandon our friendship when I tell them my origins. So what. I have learned that hiding behind fears and listening to society was causing me to lose my identity.
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